(JTA) — Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a leading contender for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, said that American foreign policy is “governed” by Israeli interests.
The short audio recording from a 2010 private fundraiser was released this week by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, or IPT.
“The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people,” Ellison is heard saying. “A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes. Can I say that again?”
The fundraiser for Ellison’s 2010 re-election campaign was hosted by Esam Omeish, a past president of the Muslim American Society, according to IPT. Omeish in 2007 quit a Virginia state commission set up to examine immigration issues over comments he made about Israel, including a statement from a video clip in which he tells his Muslim “brothers and sisters” that “the jihad way is the way to liberate your land.”
The Anti-Defamation League in a statement issued on Thursday said the content of the audio clip “raises serious doubts” about Ellison’s ability to faithfully represent the party’s traditional support for Israel.
“Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, said in the statement. “His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests. Additionally, whether intentional or not, his words raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government, a poisonous myth that may persist in parts of the world where intolerance thrives, but that has no place in open societies like the U.S.
Though he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has visited Israel several times, Ellison voted against additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system in 2014. Ellison has otherwise consistently voted for defense assistance to Israel. In 2009, he spearheaded a letter from 54 Democrats urging President Obama to press Israel to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Ellison made history in 2006 when he became the first Muslim elected to Congress. He has previously been involved with the Nation of Islam, but has since renounced the group.